Galatians 2:15
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
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(15-21) The section which follows is, in form at least, still a continuation of the rebuke addressed to St. Peter; but the Apostle soon drifts away from this, and begins imperceptibly a comment upon his own words, which is addressed directly to the Galatians. We are thus led, without any real break, from the historical and personal to the doctrinal portion of the Epistle. It is impossible to say exactly where the speech at Antioch ends and where the comment upon it begins; the Apostle glides from one to the other without any conscious division in his own mind. A similar mingling of narrative and comment is found in St. John’s Gospel: compare, e.g., John 3:14-21; John 3:31-36, the first of which sections formally belongs to the discourse with Nicodemus, and the second to the reply of John the Baptist, though it is clear that much after comment of the Evangelist’s is interwoven with them. If we are to draw a dividing line at all in the section before us, it might be said that Galatians 2:15-16 were still most nearly a paraphrase of the words actually addressed to St. Peter; while from Galatians 2:17 onwards the Apostle is giving the rein more freely to his own reflections. The sequence of the thought seems to be somewhat as follows:—

We belong by our birth to a privileged people. We are not of Gentile descent, and therefore abandoned to our sins. And yet, with all our privileges, we found that we could get no justification whatever from the Law; and this sent us to Christ. We thus abdicated our privileged position; we put ourselves on the same level as the Gentiles, and became (in the eye of the Law) sinners like them. Sinners? Must we then admit that all Christ has done for us is to make us sinners? Far be so irreverent a thought. Our sin consists not in quitting the Law, but in returning to that which has once been abandoned. The function of the Law was preparatory and transitional. The Law itself taught me to expect its own abrogation. It was a stage on the way to Christ. To Him have I given in a complete adhesion. In His death I am severed from ancient ties. In His death I ceased to have any life of my own. All the life I have, man as I am, I owe to Christ, my Saviour. Thus I accept and do not reject and frustrate the gift so freely offered me: whereas, by going back to the Law for justification, I should be practically declaring the death of Christ useless and unprofitable.

(15) Who are.—It will be seen that these words are in italics, and have to be supplied in the Greek. The Received text, which is followed in our version, also I omits a connecting particle, found in the best MSS., at the beginning of Galatians 2:16. Restoring this, a better way of taking the whole passage appears to be to supply only the word “are” in the present verse, and make the next mark a certain opposition to it: “We are (indeed) by birth Jews . . . but” (or, and yet), “knowing as we did that the Law cannot justify any one, we believed on Christ.” The first clause is concessive: “We grant you that we were born Jews, and not Gentiles: members of the chosen race, and not sinners.” The next clause explains why it was that, with all these privileges, the Christian, though thus born a Jew, transferred his allegiance from the Law to Christ. The reason was that the Law failed in the one great object—to justify us or obtain our acquittal in the sight of God.

By naturei.e., by birth. The privileges of the Jew belonged to all Jews alike, simply by the more fact that they were Jews.

Sinners.—The word was almost a synonym for “heathen” in the mouth of a strict Jew. Hence there is a slight irony in its use by St. Paul. “I grant you that from our lofty position we can look down upon those poor Gentiles, sinners by virtue of mere descent.”

Of the Gentiles.—”Of” in the sense of natural descent: “Of Gentile parentage (and therefore) sinners.”

Galatians 2:15-16. We — St. Paul, to spare St. Peter, drops the first person singular, and speaks in the plural number; Galatians 2:18, he speaks in the first person singular again by a figure, and without a figure, Galatians 2:19, &c. Who are Jews by nature — By birth, and not proselytes. As in the first part of his discourse, where the apostle speaks only of himself and Peter, he meant to speak of all the teachers of the gospel; so in this second part, where he describes his own state, he in effect describes the state of believers in general. And not sinners of the Gentiles — That is, not sinful Gentiles; not such gross, enormous, abandoned sinners as the heathen generally are. It is justly observed by Dr. Whitby here, that the word sinners in Scripture signifies great and habitual sinners; and that the Jews gave the Gentiles that appellation, on account of their idolatry and other vices. Accordingly, Matthew 26:45, the clause, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners, means, is delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, as is evident from Matthew 20:18-19. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law — Not even of the moral law, much less of the ceremonial; but by the faith of Jesus Christ — The faith which Jesus Christ hath enjoined and requires as the means of men’s justification, namely, faith in the gospel, in its important truths and precious promises: or, rather, by faith in Jesus Christ, as the true Messiah, the Son of God, in whom alone there is salvation for guilty, depraved, weak, and wretched sinners; the faith whereby we make application to him, and rely on him for salvation, present and eternal: learn of him as a Teacher, depend on him as a Mediator, become subject to him as a Governor, and prepare to meet him as a Judge. See on Romans 3:28; Romans 4:1-25. Even we — And how much more must the Gentiles, who have still less pretence to depend on their own works? have believed in Jesus Christ — To this great purpose; that we might be justified — As has been said before; by faith in Christ — This is the method that we, who were brought up Jews, have taken, as being thoroughly sensible we could be justified and saved no other way: for by the works of the law, whether ceremonial or moral, shall no flesh living, whether Jew or Gentile, be justified — Since no human creature is capable of fully answering its demands, or can pretend to have paid a universal and unsinning obedience to it. Hitherto the apostle had been considering that single question, “Are Christians obliged to observe the ceremonial law?” But he here insensibly goes further, and by citing this passage, shows that what he spoke directly of the ceremonial, included also the moral law. For David undoubtedly did so, when he said, (Psalm 143:2, the place here referred to,) In thy sight shall no man living be justified; which the apostle likewise explains, (Romans 3:19-20,) in such a manner as can agree only with the moral law.

2:15-19 Paul, having thus shown he was not inferior to any apostle, not to Peter himself, speaks of the great foundation doctrine of the gospel. For what did we believe in Christ? Was it not that we might be justified by the faith of Christ? If so, is it not foolish to go back to the law, and to expect to be justified by the merit of moral works, or sacrifices, or ceremonies? The occasion of this declaration doubtless arose from the ceremonial law; but the argument is quite as strong against all dependence upon the works of the moral law, as respects justification. To give the greater weight to this, it is added, But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ the minister of sin? This would be very dishonourable to Christ, and also very hurtful to them. By considering the law itself, he saw that justification was not to be expected by the works of it, and that there was now no further need of the sacrifices and cleansings of it, since they were done away in Christ, by his offering up himself a sacrifice for us. He did not hope or fear any thing from it; any more than a dead man from enemies. But the effect was not a careless, lawless life. It was necessary, that he might live to God, and be devoted to him through the motives and grace of the gospel. It is no new prejudice, though a most unjust one, that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, tends to encourage people in sin. Not so, for to take occasion from free grace, or the doctrine of it, to live in sin, is to try to make Christ the minister of sin, at any thought of which all Christian hearts would shudder.We who are Jews by nature - It has long been a question whether this and the following verses are to be regarded as a part of the address of Paul to Peter, or the words of Paul as a part of the Epistle to the Galatians. A great variety of opinion has prevailed in regard to this. Grotius says, "Here the narrative of Paul being closed, he pursues his argument to the Galatians." In this opinion Bloomfield and many others concur. Rosenmuller and many others suppose that the address to Peter is continued to Galatians 2:21. Such seems to be the most obvious interpretation, as there is no break or change in the style, nor any vestige of a transfer of the argument to the Galatians. But, on the other hand, it may be urged:

(1) That Paul in his writings often changes his mode of address without indicating it - Bloomfield.

(2) that it is rather improbable that he should have gone into so long a discourse with Peter on the subject of justification. His purpose was answered by the reproof of Peter for his dissimulation; and there is something incongruous, it is said, in his instructing Peter at such length on the subject of man's justification. Still it appears to me probable that this is to be regarded as a part of the discourse of Paul to Peter, to the close of Galatians 2:21.

The following reasons seem to me to require this interpretation:

(1) It is the most natural and obvious - usually a safe rule of interpretation. The discourse proceeds as if it were an address to Peter.

(2) there is a change at the beginning of the next chapter, where Paul expressly addresses himself to the Galatians.

(3) as to the impropriety of Paul's addressing Peter at length on the subject of justification, we are to bear in mind that he did not address him alone.

The reproof was addressed to Peter particularly, but it was "before them all" Galatians 2:14; that is, before the assembled church, or before the persons who had been led astray by the conduct of Peter, and who were in danger of error on the subject of justification. Nothing, therefore, was more proper than for Paul to continue his discourse for their benefit, and to state to them fully the doctrine of justification. And nothing was more pertinent or proper for him now titan to report this to the Galatians as a part of his argument to them, showing that he had always, since his conversion, held and defended the same doctrine on the subject of the way in which people are to be justified in the sight of God. It is, therefore, I apprehend, to be regarded as an address to Peter and the other Jews who were present. "We who were born Jews."

By nature - By birth; or, we were born Jews. We were not born in the condition of the Gentiles.

And not sinners of the Gentiles - This cannot mean that Paul did not regard the Jews as sinners, for his views on that subject he has fully expressed in Romans 2; 3. But it must mean that the Jews were not born under the disadvantages of the Gentiles in regard to the true knowledge of the way of salvation. They were not left wholly in ignorance about the way of justification, as the Gentiles were. They knew, or they might know, that men could not be saved by their own works. It was also true that they were under more restraint than the Gentiles were, and though they were sinners, yet they were not abandoned to so gross and open sensuality as was the pagan world. They were not idolaters, and wholly ignorant of the Law of God.

15, 16. Connect these verses together, and read with most of the oldest manuscripts "But" in the beginning of Ga 2:16: "We (I and thou, Peter) by nature (not by proselytism), Jews, and not sinners as (Jewish language termed the Gentiles) from among the Gentiles, YET (literally, 'BUT') knowing that … even we (resuming the 'we' of Ga 2:15, 'we also,' as well as the Gentile sinners; casting away trust in the law), have believed," &c. Jews by nature; born Jews, not only proselyted to the Jewish religion, (and so under an obligation to the observation of the Jewish law), but of the seed of Abraham, and so under the covenant made with him and his seed, as he was the father of the Jewish nation.

Not sinners of the Gentiles: the Gentiles were ordinarily called by the Jews sinners; though it appeareth that there were divers of them worshippers of the true God, and came up to Jerusalem to worship; for whose sake there was a peculiar court allotted in the temple, called: The court of the Gentiles. Yet not being under the obligation of the Jewish law, they went under the denomination of sinners by the Jews; and the most of the Gentiles were really sinners, and that eminently, (for such the word here used ordinarily signifieth), as the apostle describeth their manners, Romans 1:29-31.

We who are Jews by nature,.... I Paul, and you Peter and Barnabas, and the rest of the Jews at Antioch. Some are Jews by grace, in a spiritual sense, as all are that are Christ's, that are true believers in him, that are born again, and have internal principles of grace formed in their souls, of whatsoever nation they be; see Romans 2:28. Others become Jews by being proselytes to the Jewish religion: such were the Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven, that were dwelling at Jerusalem, when the Spirit was poured down on the apostles on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:5, but these here spoken of were such as were Jews by birth; they were born so, were descended of Jewish parents, and from their infancy were brought up in the Jewish religion, and under the law of Moses, and in the observance of it:

and not sinners of the Gentiles: , "the wicked of the nations of the world", as the (l) Jews call them. Not but that the Jews also were sinners both by nature and practice, were involved in the guilt of sin, under the power of it, and defiled with it, as the apostle elsewhere most fully proves: nor is this said with regard to the vain opinion the Jews had of themselves, as very holy and righteous persons, who in their own apprehension needed neither repentance nor remission; and who looked upon the Gentiles as very unholy and unfit for conversation with them: but this more particularly respects that part of the character of the Heathens, that they were without the law, and were under no restraints, but lived in all manner of wickedness, without hope and God in the world, and so were notorious sinners, filled with all unrighteousness, profligate and abandoned to every evil work, and are therefore called emphatically "sinful men", Luke 24:7. And indeed the word Gentiles, among themselves is sometimes used for , "a certain most wicked part" of Gentiles in a city (m), and so may here design such who lived the most dissolute lives and conversations, to which the Jews are opposed, who had a written law, and were under a better regulation and discipline. The reason of this description, both in the positive and negative branch of it, is to observe, that since they, the apostles, and others, who were born Jews, and so under the law of Moses, and, until Christ came, were under obligation to observe it, but had now relinquished it, and wholly and alone believed in Christ for righteousness and life; then it was the most unreasonable thing in the world, by any means whatever, to lead the Gentiles, who never were under the law, to an observance of it.

(l) Mattanot Cehunah in Vajikra Rabba, fol. 164. 3.((m) Harpocratian. Lex. p. 93.

{3} We who are Jews {o} by nature, and not {p} sinners of the Gentiles,

(3) The second part of this epistle, the state of which is this: we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus without the works of the Law. Which thing he propounds in such a way, that first of all he meets with an objection (for I also, he says, am a Jew, that no man may say against me that I am an enemy to the Law), and afterward, he confirms it by the express witness of David.

(o) Even though we are Jews, yet we preach justification by faith, because we know without any doubt that no man can be justified by the Law.

(p) So the Jews called the Gentiles, because they were strangers to God's covenant.

Galatians 2:15. A continuation of the address to Peter down to Galatians 2:21. So Chrysostom, Theodoret, Jerome, Estius, Bengel, Rosenmüller, Tittmann (Opusc. p. 365), Knapp (Scr. var. arg. II. p. 452 f.), Flatt, Winer, Rückert, Schott, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette and Möller, Hilgenfeld, Ewald, Holsten. Others have looked upon Galatians 2:15-21 as addressed to the Galatians (Theodore of Mopsuestia, Oecumenius, Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Semler, Koppe, Matthies, Hermann, Hofmann, Wieseler, Reithmayr); but to this view it may be objected, that Paul himself does not indicate the return to his readers until Galatians 3:1, and that the bare, brief reproach in Galatians 2:14 would neither correspond to the historical character of so important an event, nor stand in due relation with the purpose for which Paul narrates it (see on Galatians 2:11); as indeed he himself has in Galatians 2:11; Galatians 2:14 so earnestly prepared the way for, and announced, his opposition, that the reader could not but expect something more than that mere question—so hurriedly thrown out—of indignant surprise.[92] And how could he have written to his (for the most part) Gentile-Christian readers ἡμεῖς φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι κ.τ.λ., without telling them whom he meant thereby? Just as little can we assume that Paul again turns to the Galatians with καὶ ἡμεῖς in Galatians 2:16 (Calovius, Paulus), or in Galatians 2:17 (Luther, Calvin), or in Galatians 2:18 (Cajetanus, Neander); or that he (Erasmus and Estius by way of suggestion, Usteri) has been imperceptibly led away from the thread of his historical statement, so that it is not possible to show how much belongs to the speech at Antioch. No, the whole of this discourse (Galatians 2:15-21)—thoroughly unfolding the truth from principles, and yet so vivid, and in fact annihilating his opponent—harmonizes so fully with the importance of a public step against Peter, as well as with the object which Paul had in view in relating this occurrence to the Galatians especially (among whom indeed these very principles, against which Peter offended, were in great danger), that, up to its grave conclusion ἄρα Χριστὸς δωρεὰν ἀπέθανεν (Galatians 2:21), it must be regarded as an unity—as the effusion directed against Peter at Antioch; but, at the same time, it cannot be maintained that Paul spoke the words quite literally thus, as he here, after so long a lapse of time, quotes from lively recollection of the scene which he could not forget.

ἡμεῖς φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι, καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτ.] Paul begins his dogmatic explanation in regard to the reproach expressed in Galatians 2:14 with a concession: “We are Jews by birth, (in this Paul feels the whole advantage of belonging to the ancient holy people of God, Romans 3:1 f., Romans 9:1 ff.), and not sinners of the Gentiles (by Gentile descent).” Gentiles as such, because they are ἄνομοι and ἄθεοι (Romans 2:12; 1 Corinthians 9:21; Ephesians 2:12), are to the Israelite consciousness ἁμαρτωλοί and ἄδικοι (1 Samuel 15:18; Tob 13:6; Wis 10:20 : comp. Luke 18:32; Luke 24:7; 1 Corinthians 6:1); and from this—the theocratical—point of view Paul says ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοί, born Gentiles, and as such sinners, as all Gentiles are. Not as if he would look upon the Ἰουδαίους as not sinners; according to the sequel, indeed, they needed justification equally with the Gentiles (see Romans 2:3; Romans 2:22 f., Galatians 5:12; Ephesians 2:2 f.). But the passage affirms that the Jews—as the possessors of the revelation and the law, of the ancient theocratic υἱοθεσία and the promises (Romans 9:4), and as belonging to the holy ἀπαρχή and root-stock of the theocracy (Romans 11:16)—possessed as their own a religious consecration of life, whereby they stood on a certain stage of righteousness in virtue of which, although it was not that of the true δικαιοσύνη, they were nevertheless exalted far above the Gentiles in their natural state of sinfulness (Ephesians 2:12; Titus 3:5). Luther well says: “Nos natura Judaei in legali justitia excedimus quidem gentes, qui peccatores sunt, si nobis conferantur, ut qui nec legem nec opera ejus habent; verum non in hoc justi sumus coram Deo, externa est ilia justitia nostra.” If ἁμαρτωλοί had not been unduly understood according to the purely ethical idea (the opposite of sinlessness), the discourse would not have been so broken up as by Elsher, Er. Schmidt, and others: “Nos natura Judaei, licet non ex gentibus, peccatores;” comp. Paulus. Hofmann’s view is also similar: “that the apostle excluded from himself that sinfulness only, which was implied in Gentile descent—characteristic of those not belonging naturally to the Jewish nationality;” comp. his Schriftbew. I. p. 564, 610 (“our sinfulness does not bear the characteristic Gentile shape”). Paul wishes, not to affirm the different nature of the sinfulness of those born as Jews and Gentiles respectively, but to recall the theocratic advantage of the Jews over the sinners of Gentile descent; in spite of which advantage, however, etc. (Galatians 2:16). The contrast lies in the idea of a theocratic sanctitas, peculiar to the born Jew, on the one hand;[93] and on the other, of a profane vitiositas, wherewith the Gentile descent is burdened.

ἡμεῖς] has the emphasis: We on our part (I and thou), μέν is not to be supplied here (Rückert, Schott); but the concession in Galatians 2:15 stands by itself, and the contrast is added without preparation in Galatians 2:16. Comp. Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 423; Bremi, ad Isocr. Paneg. 105, “quando altera pars per δέ sit evehenda.” The contrast thus strikes one more vividly, and hence the absence of the μέν can afford no ground for calling in question (with Hofmann) the sense of a concession. Comp. also Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 3. 15. On the difference between Ἰουδαῖοι (theocratic bond of union) and Ἑβραῖοι (nationality), see Wieseler, über d. Hebräerbrief 1861, II. p. 28.

[92] Indeed the practical renunciation (not mere denial) of the principle of Christian freedom required a renewed apology for, and vindication of, the latter; especially as Paul had called Peter to account before the assembled church, whereby the act assumed a solemnity to which the brief question in ver. 14 alone could in no way seem adequate, and least of all could it suffice to procure a duly proportionate satisfaction for the offence given to the church (ver. 11). He does not, however, “demonstrate” his explanation to Peter (Wieseler’s difficulty), but presents it in the most vivid and striking dialectic, compressing everything which would have afforded matter for a very copious demonstration sharply and sternly, towards the defeat of the great opponent who had been unfaithful to himself. Hofmann inconsiderately holds that, if Paul after the concession ἐθνικῶς ζῇς κ. οὐκ Ἰουδαΐκως had thus explained himself in a detailed statement to Peter, he would have acted absurdly. It would have been absurd, if Paul, in order to say the two or three words to Peter recorded in ver. 14, had brought the whole act of the κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην before the assembled church.

[93] Calvin appropriately says: “Quia autem promissio haereditariam benedictionem faciebat, ideo naturale vocatur hoc bonum.”


The personal narrative breaks on abruptly at this point. Peter drops out of sight, and the Epistle passes from a protest against his vacillation into an elaborate argument against the doctrinal errors of the Pharisaic party, which forms too integral a portion of the whole Epistle to be detached from it. Yet the new strain of thought springs so directly out of the previous remonstrance that it might well have been addressed there and then to the Jewish Christians at Antioch. The outspoken protest against an insidious attempt to force on Gentiles the Jewish rule of life leads naturally to an enquiry what this rule has done for men who are Jews by birth. Did it justify them before God? We know that it did not: they had to turn to Christ for the peace with God which the Law could not give. In short, Galatians 2:15-21 are connected at once with the preceding matter and the subsequent; and apparently reproduce in substance an argument which had already been addressed, viva voce, to the circumcision-party at Antioch, whom the Apostle identifies in spirit and policy with the subsequent agitators in Galatia.—οὐκ ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμ. This clause expresses pointedly the insolent contempt of the Pharisaic party for Gentiles, who did not belong to the holy nation nor inherit the Law and the Covenants. Yet in spite of these arrogant pretensions to superior sanctity (it is added) they were driven by the verdict of their own conscience to embrace the faith of Christ because they knew that no flesh could possibly be so perfect in obedience to Law as to be thereby justified.

15–18. Consider what is involved in our having embraced Christianity. We were Jews by birth, and not Gentiles, whom the Jews look down upon as ‘sinners’. We were convinced that man cannot be accounted righteous before God on the score of a perfect obedience to the law, but that he is so accounted for the merits’ sake of Christ through faith. We, I say, believed in Christ, that we might be justified as the result of such faith and not of obedience to the law. We had cast aside all trust in the law, and earnestly sought to be saved only by Christ through faith. If we were mistaken, if instead of being justified (i.e. perfectly righteous before God in the imputed righteousness of Christ), we were found to be unjustified and therefore ‘sinners’, like those Gentiles on whom we used to look down, Christ instead of being “the end of the law for righteousness,” would virtually be the minister of sin—all His work having failed to justify us, He would have ministered to a state of sin. But such a thought is not to be entertained for a moment. For to insist on the necessity of legal obedience for salvation is to build up an edifice which I formerly overthrew, and to reduce myself to the old position of a transgressor.

Jews by nature] by birth, not even proselytes.

sinners of the Gentiles] Rather, from among the Gentiles.

Galatians 2:15. Ἡμεῖς, we) Paul, sparing the person of Peter, dismisses the second person singular, and passes to the first person plural, then figuratively to the first person singular, Galatians 2:18; lastly, I in its proper [literal] meaning, Galatians 2:19-20. We, although Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, viz., we have been: comp. the preterite knowing—we have believed. This we, after the reason[12] has been interposed in the way of parenthesis, is taken up again in the following verse with epitasis [an emphatic addition, viz., even we] and reaches to we have believed.—φύσει, by nature) not merely proselytes.—οὐκ ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοὶ, not sinners of the Gentiles) Paul openly declares it as a thing acknowledged, that the Gentiles, inasmuch as they did not even possess the law, are sinners, while the Jews, on the contrary, had the law or even works; Titus 3:5. Then by the way he grants, that it is only in Christ that the Jews can have communion with them; but he especially declares, as a thing acknowledged, the justification of the Gentiles by faith, and he also infers the same thing concerning the Jews. To this refers the expression sinners, Galatians 2:17, note.[13]

[12] By ‘aetiologia.’ See Append.

[13] Sinners such as the Gentiles heretofore were justly regarded.—ED.

Verse 15. - We who are Jews by nature (ἡμεῖς φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι); we being Jews by nature; or, we are Jews by nature. In point of construction, it may be observed that, after εἰδότες in the next verse, recent editors concur in inserting δέ. With this correction of the text, we may either make this fifteenth verse a separate sentence, by supplying ἐσμέν, "we are Jews by nature," etc., and begin the next verse with the words, "but yet, knowing that... even we believed," etc.; or we may supply in this verse" being," and, conjoining it with "knowing," take the two verses as forming one sentence; thus: "We being Jews... yet knowing that... even we believed," etc. For the general sense, it is quite immaterial which mode of construing we adopt. The Revisers have preferred the latter. The former makes the passage run more smoothly; but this, in construing St. Paul's writings, is by no means a consideration of weight. "We," that is, "I Paul, and thou Cephas," rather than "I Paul, and thou Cephas, with those who are acting with thee;" for we read before, "I said unto Cephas," not" unto Cephas and the rest of the Jews." "By nature;" because we were Jews by birth. But the two expressions, "by nature" and "by birth," are not convertible terms, as is evident from ch. 4:8 and Romans 2:14; the former covers wider ground than the latter. The prerogatives attaching to the natural position of a born Jew were higher than those which appertained to a circumcised proselyte. This is why he adds," by nature." "Jews;" a term of honourable distinction, closely by its etymology connected in the mind of a Hebrew with the notion of "praise" (comp. Genesis 9:8; Romans 2:29); a term, therefore, of theocratic vaunting (Romans 2:17). And not sinners of the Gentiles (καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοί); and not of the Gentiles sinners. The word "sinners" must be here taken, not in that purely moral acceptation in which all are "sinners," but in that mixed sense in which moral disapproval was largely tinged with the bigoted disdain which the theocratic Israelite felt for "the uncircumcised;" the Levitically purist Jew for them who, having no" Law "(ἄνομοι), wallowed in every kind of ceremonial pollution, "unclean," "dogs" (comp. Matthew 15:27; Philippians 3:2; Acts 2:23). As a notion correlative to that of "Jews," the word is used by our Lord himself when he spoke of his being delivered into the hands of "sinners" (Matthew 26:45; comp. Matthew 20:19). As correlative to that of persons fit for the society of the righteous and Levitically holy, it is used by Christ and the evangelists in the phrase, "publicans and sinners," in which it is nearly equivalent to "outcasts." So the apostle uses it here. With an ironical mimesis of the tone of language which a self-righteous legalist loved to employ, he means in effect, "not come from among Gentiles, sinful outcasts." May not the apostle be imagined to have quite lately heard such phrases from the lips of some of those Pharisee-minded Christians to whom Cephas was unhappily now truckling? For the right appreciation of the train of thought which the apostle is now pursuing, it is important to observe that both Cephas and Paul had reason to regard themselves as having been, before they were justified, sinners in another sense of the deepest dye. St. Paul felt to the very end of his days that he had once been, and that therefore in himself he still was, a chief of sinners (ἀμαρτωλούς ῶν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ); and surely the wickedness into which Cephas precipitated himself on the morning of his Lord's passion must have left ever alter in his mind too a similar consciousness. Galatians 2:15We, etc.

Continuation of Paul's address; not the beginning of an address to the Galatians. Under we Paul includes himself, Peter, and the Jewish Christians of Antioch, in contrast with the Gentile Christians. The Galatians were mostly Gentiles.

Who are Jews, etc.

The who is wrong. Render we are Jews. The expression is concessive. We are, I grant, Jews. There is an implied emphasis on the special prerogatives and privileges of the Jews as such. See Romans 3:1 f.; Romans 9:1 ff.

Sinners of the Gentiles (ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοί)

Lit. sinners taken from the Gentiles, or sprung from. Sinners, in the conventional Jewish sense; born heathen, and as such sinners; not implying that Jews are not sinners. The Jew regarded the Gentile as impure, and styled him a dog (Matthew 15:27). See Romans 2:12; 1 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 9:21; Ephesians 2:12; Luke 18:32; Luke 24:7. Possibly Paul here cites the very words by which Peter sought to justify his separation from the Gentile Christians, and takes up these words in order to draw from them an opposite conclusion. This is quite according to Paul's habit.

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